Anton Stralman laughed when it was suggested Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was hired to be the anti-John Tortorella.
It was a reflexive response from a man who experienced both coaches firsthand.
“Maybe a little bit,” Stralman said after the Rangers’ practice Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. “Yeah, [Tortorella was] a little more verbose, that’s for sure. I think A.V. has been good for us.”
Vigneault’s composure has been both welcomed and a benefit for a squad that had tired of Tortorella’s volcanic eruptions.
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals 2-0 over the Canadiens and a win in Game 3 Thursday could put a stranglehold on the series.
“He’s very calm,” Stralman said. “There [have been] a few times [he had] a little temper on the bench. But other than that, he keeps poised. I think that’s contagious for [the] players.”
When general manager Glen Sather introduced Vigneault as the 35th head coach in franchise history on June 21, 2013, the executive stressed the new hire favored an offensive style his predecessor, Tortorella, was unwilling to implement.
And the power play has been greatly improved, finishing 15th in the league in the regular season. Even with an 0-for-36 stretch on the power play earlier in the playoffs, the Rangers rank ninth in the league with a 15.4 percent success rate.
“We’re working at it,” John Moore said. “We’re only going to get better.”
Vigneault’s path to Broadway mirrors that of his team.
In 2003-04, Vigneault coached the Prince Edward Island Rocket of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which was a world away from the hypercharged glare of the Bell Centre, where he led the Canadiens until he was fired 20 games into the 2000-01 season.
A decade later, the memory still resonates with the Rangers coach.
“Instead of being in front of 21,000 people, I was in front of 1,000 people coaching my team,” Vigneault said. “At that time I had bills to pay. I had a family to make sure I was providing for. It was the only place I could work, and I always felt working was honorable. I went to work there, did a couple more years junior and was fortunate enough to land a job in the American League. From there I was fortunate enough to get a second chance coaching in this league.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.